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UPDATE 2-Edenred's Q1 organic revenue growth tops expectations

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April 22 (Reuters) - Edenred beat first-quarter revenue expectations on Thursday, as the French provider of vouchers and cards returned to organic growth across all regions.

Edenred confirmed its 2021 guidance for 6% growth in organic core profit and reported first-quarter organic revenue of 373 million euros ($449 million), topping the 366 million forecast by analysts.

“We demonstrated our capacity to leverage our digital platform - in which we have invested between 250 million and 300 million euros,” CEO Bertrand Dumazy said on a call with analysts.

Known for its prepaid Ticket Restaurant meal vouchers, Edenred has been shifting to online platforms and home deliveries during lockdowns.

It signed new clients in France, its home market, and continued its free school meals voucher programme with the UK Department of Education, reporting satisfaction rates above the 95% it posted for the first phase, which ran until end-2020.

British ministers faced criticism earlier this year for extending a 425 million pound contract with Edenred, prompting accusations of profiteering as families struggled to access the scheme.

Dumazy said the UK initiative to deliver food packages had been “a fiasco, as it is extremely difficult logistically, and there were some very unhappy pictures of expired products, notably fruit and vegetables.”

Britain’s Compass Group, the world’s biggest catering company, also came under fire for supplying substandard children’s food packages.

In Romania, Edenred launched a programme aimed to improve pensioners’ access to food, where it said that three-quarters of users - on average 83 years-old - activated their digital accounts in the first instance.

Though Edenred’s quarterly sales grew organically, they fell on a reported basis due to currency impacts, especially in Europe and Latin America.

$1 = 0.8303 euros Reporting by Sarah Morland and Veronica Snoj; Editing by Uttaresh.V and Jason Neely

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